Our venue comes with an alcohol permit, which is pretty sweet because it means we can buy our own booze and do it on the cheap.
Here are our tips if you are going to buy your own wedding alcohol:
1) Think about what is important to you.
Tim and I love beer, and we like wine, but we would much rather spend our money on good beer than good wine. Think about your guest list and the venue, too. In our case, there is no need to have champagne at 3:00 in the afternoon in a park, and our guests (for the most part) enjoy beer and wine so we should have our bases covered. For simplicity’s sake, we are sticking to just beer and wine (no hard liquor). You could add to this by making a sangria to serve along with the regular wine, in place of a “signature cocktail.”
2) Calculate roughly how much alcohol you will need to buy.
We used A Practical Wedding’s calculator. It’s got some really great suggestions.
3) If you live in a state that allows alcohol to be sold at grocery stores, GO TO TRADER JOE’S.
What a magical, wonderful place. Their house wine (the famous Charles Shaw two-buck-chuck) is $2.99 and tastes better, in my humble, uneducated opinion, than the lowest priced bottles at my state store. I live in Pennsylvania, where the state controls all alcohol sales, and the lowest priced bottles here are about $6. Tim’s parents graciously offered to shop at the Nebraska Trader Joe’s for us, and deliver the wine here. They bought 4 cases (a mix of reds and whites) for $172. I mean, come on…that’s just ridiculous. 48 bottles, people!!! And they sell a lot of reasonably priced different brands, if Charles Shaw isn’t your thing.
4) The last decision we need to make is whether to get bottles or kegs of beer.
Bottles are easier to purchase and transport, we wouldn’t have to worry about keg malfunctions, and we can get as many varieties as we like. Kegs leave us with less to clean up at the end of the night (no empty bottles) and are more economical, but are harder to transport and store. In addition, leftover bottles are easier to deal with than leftover kegs. We are planning to do about two thirds craft beer (likely a wheat and an IPA) and one third basic crowd-pleaser beer (Yuengling or something similar).
5) Hire a bartender if you are having more than, say, 50 people.
Your venue might require this, but even if it is not required, it is still a good idea. You don’t have to worry about making sure that your guests are drinking responsibly, and guests won’t need to serve themselves. It’s well worth the minimal expense.